|The sun is taking longer and longer to come out in the morning. But it isn't raining, so no reason NOT to take another walk.
Alison, Patricia's friend and neighbour in Blockley, is a garden designer who is busy with her own private business. Today she has to go to Cirencester and Cheltenham to see some clients, and she has been kind enough to let me tag along with her. I will have limited time in each city, but at least it's a taste -- I can always return another time.
Cirencester (cester indicates a Roman fortress or encampment) is the largest town in the Cotswold District and lies about 35 miles from Blockley. The Roman name for this place was Corinium, and the first reference to the town was in 150 AD. Around town there is some evidence of the former Roman structures, but they are all just mounds of earth now. The majority of the town is post-15th century.
Cirencester has a busy market square, but unlike most of the other Cotswold towns I have been visiting, this one has the traffic to match. There are two very distinct buildings in the square. One is the Fleece Hotel, a half-timbered building build in the mid-1600s, which is still maintained as a 3-star hotel. At the end of the square is the parish church of St John the Baptist (often referred to as the Cathedral of the Cotswolds), with a nave built in 1515. The views are supposed to be spectacular from the top of the tower. Unfortunately it was not open to the public today. On my circle city walking tour, I passed the White Lion, a 17th century coaching inn, and the 15th century building at 33 Gloucester Street. Gloucester Street is one of the oldest streets in the city.
Just before arriving back at the market square, there is a high wall and a spectacular yew hedge, which was planted in 1720 and is 40 feet high. I believe that it's the largest in the world (can't imagine anyone else letting their hedge grow that tall!).
From there I walked to the edge of the town and into Cirencester Park.
Cirencester Park is the home of the Bathurst family. The rides (these are British rides, as in wide pathways, not amusement park rides) in the park are not public rights of way, but the present Lord Bathurst has given the public permission to use the park "on foot and on horseback" between 8am and 5pm. The park and the woodlands were laid out and planted by the first Earl Bathurst, starting in 1714, with the help of his friend, the poet Alexander Pope. The Broad Ride is the central feature of the grand forestry landscape plan.
The Broad Ride is very wide and straight. It's not hard to imagine it hundreds of years ago, with carriages and horses approaching from another town. If you started on the Broad Ride from its western edge, lined by huge horse chestnut trees, you would still have another 5 miles to Cirencester.
I love walking along these rides. You see people with their dogs, women with their babies in prams, riders on horseback, and some people just taking in the exercise. No other tourists that I noticed. I stopped for a few minutes at the lovely gazebo just off the main path.
I walked about a mile up the ride, wishing that I had time to actually go the 5 miles, so that I could turn around and imagine that approach myself. But I had to get back to the market square as Ali was picking me up and going to her next appointment in Cheltenham. So I headed back to the edge of the Park, through the gates back into town and back to the square.